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Flooded Thailand races to rescue pets - and loose crocs

Paula Bronstein / Getty Images

A Thai woman holds her dog while waiting for transportation in Pathumthani on the outskirts of Bangkok, Thailand on Friday.

By NBC News’ Ploy Bunluesilp  

BANGKOK, Thailand – This city is on edge as we wait to see whether the worst floods to hit Thailand in decades will engulf us, too. 

Water rushing toward the sea from swollen rivers and rain-swept highlands to the north of the capital have already inundated most of central Thailand. And we are in its path next. The government seems overwhelmed. Nobody seems to be able to give us a straight answer on whether Bangkok will soon be under several feet of water.

For me, it's more than just another story to cover. I live in a wooden house in Thonburi, a neighborhood of Bangkok on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River that has kept the city's traditional character and has canals instead of streets.

Many people in the area still access their homes by boat. It's a beautiful place to live, but it is right beside the river, on low and marshy ground. If Bangkok is flooded, my home will be one of the first affected.

Like many in my neighborhood, I've been trying to build up brick defenses around my house, and moving everything upstairs to the second floor. But I'm worried about my friends and family. And I'm worried about my two little puppies, Sarsi and Brown. They can probably swim, but they prefer dry land.

And the government has warned that more than 100 alligators and crocodiles have escaped captivity when floods swamped their enclosures on farms. They are offering 1,000 Thai Bhat or $33 bounty for each one caught alive – some are up to seven feet long.

People have questioned the measly pay out for wrestling a crocodile into submission: according to a poll on the Bangkok Post, 77.5 percent of people did not think that was an equitable payout.

More than 340 people have lost their lives in the flooding across Thailand since July. And wildlife is suffering too.

Animal rescue mission
So this week I took a trip with an animal rescue team north of Bangkok, looking for stranded household pets – or dangerous escaped predators. With roads flooded, the only way to access the area is by boat.

Historic flooding in Thailand has left many pets without shelter or food for nearly two weeks. Msnbc.com's Dara Brown reports.

Sometimes they would find cats and dogs sitting on rooftops. Others were left behind by owners who had fled. And the animals don't always appreciate being rescued.

"Force needs to be used if the dog is not willing to come with us," said Roger Lohanan, the head of the rescue team. In all, the team tried to save 300 trapped cats and dogs throughout the city of Ayutthaya.

Some have to be caught with a net and sedated before being put on the boat.

Paula Bronstein / Getty Images

A Thai woman carries her son along the flooded streets in Pathumthani on the outskirts of Bangkok, Thailand, on Friday.

"I have to take them all with me as nobody can access here to give them food," Lohanan added.

Rescued cats and dogs will be looked after in a safe area, and the owners can claim their pets back later when the water recedes. As for wild animals rescued – including tigers, crocodiles, monkeys and pangolins – they are being looked after in zoos, but will be released back into the wild later.

Except for one group of the wild animals, I hope. Officials plan to keep the crocodiles in captivity, which is fortunate for Sarsi and Brown.

Related link: Floodwaters begin seeping into outer Bangkok